A recent Employment Tribunal case has delivered a warning to employers who dismiss employees at a disciplinary hearing when the employee is unable to attend.
In Bridgeman v. Family Mosaic Housing Association, the Claimant was disciplined following an act of misconduct. She claimed she was too unwell to attend the disciplinary hearing, and her employers twice re-arranged the hearing at her request. Finally, the employers made a decision in her absence and issued a final written warning.
Nine months later, the employee was the subject of a further investigation, and was invited to a disciplinary hearing. She again claimed that she was too unwell to attend. Her employers, suspecting that she was being uncooperative and was abusing the process, took the decision to dismiss in her absence.
The employee then raised a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. While the Tribunal concluded that the dismissal would have been fair had the proper procedure been followed, it considered that the decision to proceed with the Hearing in the employee’s absence was taken too hastily. The Claimant’s award was limited to a basic award as a result. The Tribunal commented that the right to a fair Disciplinary Hearing is at the heart of a fair dismissal and should not be denied without due consideration.
The message for employers is that holding a Disciplinary Hearing in an employee’s absence should only be done as a last resort, and we at LAW would second that opinion. If you need further guidance about the disciplinary process, contact your Legal Manager.